And finally?

So after 6 weeks (slightly more), 10,000 miles by car (slightly less), 270 bird species (slightly more) and 100 ‘lifers’ (more), what’s it all been for??

Well, this was a holiday so it was about relaxing and I relaxed, but it was a holiday only possible after I gave up the well-paid post of RSPB Conservation Director. The prospect of this trip kept me going through the emotional times of leaving the RSPB and the trip provided me with practice in saying ‘they’ rather than ‘we’ when talking about the RSPB. Although it is still ‘we’ really.

I’ve travelled thru almost half of the US States – Virginia, North and South Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California. 23 in all though I have been grazing rather than drinking deeply.

So what has it all been for? I wanted to make a clean break with the RSPB so disappearing for a while made it easier for them and easier for me. Any journey, and this has been a journey rather than a stay (much more active), is a journey of exploration and I have found out some things and decided some others. I’ve become more certain of what I love in life.

I am happy enough, for a while, with my own company. But I want nature in my life and that is important to me so I must stand up for nature in the years ahead. I’ve also enjoyed writing to you, Dear Reader, and writing must form part of my future too. But I’ve also realised how much I like talking to people – that’s important too.

And there are many things about which I have not yet written. I haven’t told you about the Indiana waitress’s warning (and she was the prettiest one of the lot), about my horrific bird misidentifications, about how to pay for gas in the US, about US talk radio, about games to play while driving, about the Carolina Parakeet or Heath Hen or Rocky Mountain Locust, about why I was lucky to get a car, about windfarms, about Bison or about the differences between the gents toilets in the UK and the US.

Some of what I have learned will crop up in this blog over the weeks and months ahead as it switches to being a commentary on how nature fares in the UK – and what should be done to improve its lot. So for some of you it’s worth sticking with this blog, for others maybe its interest will diminish. I’ll take a few days break in any case – a holiday after my holiday!

I come back to the UK with many great memories of places, nature and people – Grizzlies, Lou and Perry’s, the Badlands, Condors, Flagstaff, Little Bighorn and so much more. I come back with a tan, too many books, a new laptop and a greater knowledge of US geography.

My abiding sense is of a wonderful country with wonderful people. But a young country that not much more than a century ago was spreading West and causing ecological havoc. We did it too in Europe, but long long ago – the loss of species like the Passenger Pigeon and near loss of the Bison were late 19th century events that came to completion in the early 20th century and so are well-recorded.

Yesterday, at Malibu Lagoon, I saw a man walk along the shore while a Killdeer parent called loudly and incessantly. The man seemed completely unaware of the fact that he was disturbing the Killdeer’s chicks who were no doubt crouching in fear nearby, but maybe he just didn’t care. Much loss of wildlife on Earth is done without us realising what we are doing, without noticing the Killdeer crying out in distress, but some of what we do is done when we have the cries of nature ringing in our ears but we don’t listen.

I would have called from the bridge where I was watching if the man hadn’t moved on fairly quickly. Those of us who hear nature’s call need to stand up for nature and make a difference.

A request: if you have been reading this blog regularly then I’d love to hear from you. I have heard from many (maybe all, for all I know) of you already through your comments, through Facebook and Twitter and through emails to . If you haven’t been in touch then please do drop me a line through one of those ways – preferably by posting a comment – but any way will do. I’d just like your feedback and thoughts on anything you’ve read here.


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14 Replies to “And finally?”

  1. Mark,

    it's been an absolute pleasure following your odyssey (alright perhaps not odyssey in the strict sense) across the states. Reading about your travels to amazing places I visited with my dad (it's coming up to a year since he died) has brought back wonderful memories. I too stood on Navajo bridge, but almost exactly 30 years ago, and there were no condors (I think the last ones had all been rounded up by then and were living in a pen!) but it was still an amazing place. We also went to Joshua Tree but saw no road-runners. Wonderful trees though.

    Now you need to get back here and start writing about what's happening here and in Europe.... I hope you've sorted out at least one weekly newspaper column.

    Hopefully see you soon


  2. Mark, I've really enjoyed reading this Blog over the last few weeks. It's brought back memories of my own travels in the States over a decade ago. It's also been a good read because it's been about the journey as much as the wildlife. But, I think like you probably do. that the wildlife bit has been the star of the Blog. Whatever you do next, good luck and I'll be following! Jim

  3. Mark,

    You have a gift.

    As I've commented in an earlier blog of yours, your writing is rich in character and rich in characters. I too have been fortunate, to have travelled, through Australia, round south-east Asia and to various places on the greatest continent on Earth [my opinion], Africa. I've been lucky to have seen and experienced many wonderous things; wildlife, people, habitats and views. So I know, to some extent, the emotions you must have felt when looking in to the eye of bad girl #54...or standing alone, but not alone, in a wide open space with barely a human soul in sight.

    And it would have been easier and quicker for you to have posted a picture of the Navajo Bridge with the condors; the cute prairie dogs, the bears, the pretty waitresses, accompanied by a few words to add a layer of explanation...but you didn't and this is what has made your blogs so powerful. Because your writing, for me at least, has painted those pictures and created a canvas, rich in meaning, just as well as any picture. Sometimes, just sometimes, words can paint a thousand pictures. And I think you have that gift.

    I look forward to your next instalment(s) and I hope politicians, decision makers, business leaders as well as the conservation fraternity take heed and listen...not just to you, but to the metaphorical killdeers too. Because their permanent silence would be a message none of us would like to hear.

    With the very best of luck for the future and every success.


  4. I have really enjoyed your journey and your comments on the people you met. You are a great writer. It will be good to have you back in the UK fighting for nature here - there is so much to do!

  5. Dipped in and out Mark - but, as always, you write in a manner that is deeply engaging, because I guess you care so deeply about your subject. We need your passion now - as so much of our habitat is under threat. The latest dreadful news about the continuing Hen Harrier persecution in Derbyshire is very sobering. Down to 4 breeding pairs now I reckon! Have a good trip back.

    1. Keith - thanks. Don't know all the details about the harriers but it isn't good.

  6. What a great read your blog has been these last few weeks. I kept Googling your links and followed you on your journey. I learnt quite a bit too, but most of all you kept me entertained. I am sure that there must have been times when you thought about posting a few sentences an dnipping off to the bar instead, but your efforts have been much appreciated. Well done.


  7. Hi Mark - Thanks for the blog. I've loved every one and its made me want to get out and do it myself. It'll be good to have you back!

  8. Hi Mark have enjoyed your holiday blogs but think I am in a serious minority (nothing new there)that enjoy your blogs from U K much more,sincerely hope we agree more in future but if not I am pleased with the knowledge you are a considerate blogger and we agree to differ.Pleased you have had a nice break and suspect it will give you a new found zest for life.

  9. Mark

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. As others have written, it has been compulsive reading on a daily basis. I looked up the Marble Canyon area via Google Maps and info, even finding a short film shot from a plane landing at the nearby airstrip and looking at the canyon bridge, including the condors

    Hope you have a good journey back


  10. Looking forward to what happens next, lots of Govt pronouncements to comment on. You may surprise us totally and change tack entirely. Racing pundit possibly.

    1. I can throw some light on that Bob.Marks dream is to write a hit song then sing it.Guess what we all think?.Dream on and I do not mean that as title of hit song.Think he should have gone to Nashville.


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